Lessons learned from the world’s best bicycle tourism destinations

Best-practice bicycle tourism destinations around the world have demonstrated there is a clear recipe for success. And we want to share those magic ingredients with you.

The ten critical success factors

Destinations who are doing bicycle tourism well all share these ten critical success factors. They:

  1. Listen to, & provide what cyclists want
  2. Focus on ‘experience’
    1. Good customer service
    2. Quality of experiences
    3. Connect experiences – rides, attractions, local businesses
  3. Create a compelling reason to visit; and tell it well
  4. Collaborate
  5. Make the information easy to find
  6. Provide a range of options/price points
  7. Provide something for a range of ages, interests, skill and fitness levels
  8. Develop strategic marketing
  9. Ensure trails, services and facilities are well maintained
  10. Install the required supporting infrastructure

The details

In 2016-17, we conducted a global research program covering 145 bicycle tourism destinations, across multi-segments, over 60 site visits and 500 interviews. We wanted to know:

  • What is the size and scope of the bicycle tourism industry?
  • What are the industry’s current conditions?
  • What challenges does the industry have?
  • What are the better practices which lead to success?
  • And what is the path to get there?

The key findings we uncovered through our research are that:

  • There’s a 40% year on year growth in the interest in bicycle tourism. This points to significant unmet demand;
  • There is a 550% market growth opportunity in Asia and North America
  • The bicycle tourism industry is fragmented; and
  • Understanding the nature of the market provides the key to success.

Bicycle tourism is one of the few global industries that has not consolidated. There are over 30,000 destinations offering individual cycling tourism experiences across the globe. Unlike the bicycle product industry, there is no ‘big three’ leading the charge, such as Trek, Giant or Specialized. No one owns the bicycle tourism market. Instead, it’s comprised of a very large number of very small players.

What this means is that the industry lacks bargaining power; It lacks a strategic and coordinated approach for development; and it lacks a critical mass to support investment. However, with these challenges also come opportunities:

  • It’s easy for small players to enter the market; and to provide genuine, authentic customer experiences;
  • It’s easy and quick to innovate, evolve and respond to changing circumstance; and
  • The industry is well suited to the ever-growing sharing economy.

We looked at the range of opportunities and challenges in our research and identified what this means for our customers and stakeholders:

  • For destinations, the nature of the industry is such that it’s not always clear where to start, how to maximise investment, and how to collaborate with others.
  • For business, there are challenges in engaging with cycle tourist customers; and the funding required to support new and evolving initiatives.
  • For the customers themselves, it’s not always clear where to go to even find the basic information.

The core insight we gained is that:

  • Word of mouth travels.
  • It creates more demand.
  • This results in more visitors.
  • Providing more income.
  • With potential for existing providers to create more offerings and to enhance the quality of experiences.

It’s a positive feedback loop. We believe that this model is the key to unlocking the value of bicycle tourism globally and to helping destinations understand what needs to be done in order to create success.

The question then, is: how do you tap into this?

Number one – work collaboratively. Our research has shown that destinations do best when they work across the industry and when they listen to, and provide, what customers want. Our platform has inbuilt commentary and sharing out to facebook and other social media platforms to market the destination, benefitting a wide range of stakeholders.

Our research highlighted that the next thing that destinations need to do is to identify gaps and promote the development of new bicycle tourism establishments. Some destinations don’t yet know what they need. In-built in our platform is a self-assessment survey. Immediately on sign-up, we provide an assessment to give clarity to what type of businesses, services and facilities are needed.

Thirdly, destinations need to identify their unique brand and experience proposition. Destinations do well to focus on what makes them special.

Next, you need to ensure there are ways for your audience to share their experience with others through social platforms. Social media needs to be compelling; it needs to be authentic; and it needs to talk directly to your customers. It needs to tell a story and it needs to address a problem. Creation of itineraries is another way to engage and optimise, generating longer stays, greater spends and richer experiences.

When it comes to digital, there are a lot of existing solutions. The key is to make sure the information is linked to local business. And to ensure that there’s a single source of truth. This is where our research highlighted the need for a destination-based approach that is about the experience. Not just the ride.

So, those are some of the better practices. The next thing is how do you do it? Where do you start?

We’ve got a simple four step process to achieve best practice:

Firstly: Provide what people want. This will be different for each destination and will be based on your unique service offering.

Next, you need to make it easy. Pre-trip; in destination and on route. Today, we’re bombarded with information, social media and marketing. Cut through the noise. Provide clear, concise and consistent messaging.

Third: simple, friendly customer service is key. Businesses and destinations that don’t get this right, won’t last long. Promote your destination as bicycle friendly. Make sure local residents know the top five or ten rides and cycling experiences in your area. They are your BEST marketing tool.

Our fourth step on the path to success is to grow and promote business. This is best done through a multi-faceted approach to marketing: through social media; special deals and discounts; and printed media. Just remember to be authentic, consistent and engaging. Inspiring imagery helps too!